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Policy Update

Policy Update: MnSCU Board of Trustees names Educators of the Year

MnSCU Board of Trustees names Educators of the Year

The MnSCU Board of Trustees honored four faculty members with the Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Deanna Forsman of North Hennepin Community College, Cheryl Neudauer of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Sandra Seller-Wee of Riverland Community College and Cheryl Tefer of Anoka-Ramsey Community College received the award. The recipients were selected from a pool of 30 outstanding educators put forward by the presidents of MnSCU institutions. Read more about the Educator of Year award winners.

Google stops scanning student and faculty emails for advertising

After years of pressure from privacy advocates and in the face of upcoming legal challenges, Google announced that it will no longer scan the emails of students and faculty using the Google Apps in Education suite for advertising keywords. Many users on college campuses may not have known that this scanning was occurring because the on-campus edition of Gmail did not display ads inside the app. Instead the scanning was used to serve ads when users visited other websites. Google’s decision effects more than 30 million Google Apps in Education users who will now have email scanning turned off. Read more about Google turning off email scanning for higher ed.

Legislative Update: Senate Capital Investment Committee releases its bonding bill

The state legislative session continues to move toward its conclusion. The House and Senate conference committee continued to meet through the weekend on the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill (SF3172), but was unable to complete its work. 

Last week, some discussion occurred in this committee surrounding the higher education policy provisions. Of note, the committee did adopt language aimed at improving credit transfer between system colleges and universities. The provision reflects the language found in SF2771 (Miller) with additional language directing that the report must come out of a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Charting the Future workgroup.

This morning, the Senate Capital Investment Committee met and released a $850 million bonding proposal. There is also a proposal for a "cash only" capital bill, which would mostly be used for renovations of the state capitol building. 

The Senate proposal calls for approximately $172 million in projects for the MnSCU system. Of that amount, $42.6 million would be funded by the system and campuses. This proposal calls for $45 million in HEAPR funds, which allow campuses to repair and renovate current facilities. The committee will likely meet again on Tuesday afternoon of this week to finalize the bill.

Study finds that more than 40% of community college transfer students unable to transfer credits

Study finds that more than 40% of community college transfer students unable to transfer credits

In recent years there have been several studies that show students are more likely to attain a bachelor’s degree if they start out at a four-year institution versus a two-year school. It has been assumed that the reason for this was that two-year colleges were not preparing their students to succeed. Two researchers at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York have concluded that the biggest impediment to the academic success for students who start a two-year school is that four-year institutions are not accepting their credits. The study finds that only 58 percent of community college transfer students are able to transfer all or almost all (90 percent or more) of their credits. The researchers estimate that graduation rates for transfer students would jump from 46 to 54 percent if more credits were accepted. Find out more about this research by reading “The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree.” 

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Government spending on higher education rising nationally

Government spending on higher education rising nationallyGovernment spending on higher education rising nationally

A report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers show that state and local support for higher education is starting to increase as the country rises out of the recession. Thirty states increased spending over last year, while three states, Illinois, North Dakota and Wyoming, even increased spending over 2008 levels. The data also points to an even greater increase in next year’s budgets. However, students are still being asked to shoulder a much greater portion of the financial load than in the past. Nationally, about 47 percent of the cost of educating a student is paid through tuition. This is up from 23 percent in the 1980s, 31 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s. Read more about increasing higher education budgets here.

Should borrowers be automatically enrolled in income-based repayment of student loans?

As congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, there is discussion among policy makers about including an automatic enrollment in income-based repayment plans for borrowers. Student loan payments based on income level would be automatically deducted from the paycheck of borrowers. Underlying this issue is a growing consensus that signing up for income-based repayment is too complex with borrowers having to choose between seven different programs. Some argue that income-based repayment plans aren’t the best choice for everyone. Borrowers pay more in the long term even if their monthly payments are lower. There is also some concern that the lower monthly payments would mask the increased tuition and remove incentives for states and institutions to reduce the cost of attending college. Click here to read more about automatic income-based repayment.

Legislative session resumes with conference committee meetings

The 2014 Minnesota legislative session resumes this week after a ten-day spring break. On Tuesday, work will begin on finalizing the supplemental budget with the conference committee meeting for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. The higher education provisions put forward by the House and Senate vary significantly. 

The House proposal funds the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system's request for additional funding to help with the settlement of faculty contracts. MnSCU would receive $17 million in FY15 and $14 million in additional funding for both of the fiscal years after that. In the Senate, MnSCU receives $17 million in only FY15. 

The Senate also includes several policy provisions related to higher education. Of note, the bill includes:

  • Changes to the Minnesota State Grant Program: Included in the proposal are modifications to both the four-year tuition maximum and the living and miscellaneous expenses allowance. These changes aim to spend the surplus dollars that are a result of lower-than-projected enrollments and tuition rates across the state. 
  • Transfer language: Language from SF2771 (Miller), which directs the MnSCU system to create an implementation plan to improve transfer of credits through the establishment of multi-institution articulation agreements. 

The conference committee will likely meet several times to work through differences over the next few weeks. 

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